September 2022

Faculty Scholars Take on Hot Topics in Bioethics: Prescription Drugs and the Inflation Reduction Act

The past few years have underscored the essential role bioethics plays in helping us navigate health crises and controversies. From the tsunami of COVID-19 to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision and the FDA’s accelerated approval of Aduhelm, to name just a few, the Greenwall community is speaking out and offering thoughtful solutions. 

To mark the Faculty Scholars Program’s 20th anniversary, we are looking at current conversations in the public square and sharing a few recent snapshots of Faculty Scholars and Alums responding to the issues of the day.

Ethical issues related to prescription drugs – costs, manufacturing, FDA approvals – are among the most recognizable and relatable bioethics issues today.

More than 131 million Americans take at least one prescription drug – that’s two-thirds of the adult population. These drugs can be expensive and are increasingly so every year. Nationwide per capita spending on prescription drugs increased from $140 in 1980 to $1,073 in 2018.  This has made prescription drug costs a kitchen table issue and frequent topic in the news and in politics.

Greenwall Faculty Scholars and Alums have long been challenging the status quo and suggesting solutions to many ethical dilemmas related to prescription drugs. Most recently, Scholars have reacted to the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law on August 12, 2022. It includes provisions designed to lower health care costs, including prescription drug costs. For example, Medicare will be able to negotiate some drug prices, and Insulin copayments will be capped at $35 per month. Although the legislation is a step forward to reduce the costs of prescription drugs, there are limitations and caveats. Here, our Faculty Scholars community explains the finer points of drug pricing, with some recent coverage of the future impact of the Inflation Reduction Act.